Libraries are synonymous with Universities and any place of learning. In fact they are one of, if not the most useful places to find information and guidance for your course (sorry Google). However for many students the Library is an intimidating and confusing place which is almost impossible to access and use. These students may have hidden disabilities or learning differences which limit their ability to get the best from the library and potentially cause them to avoid libraries altogether.
Here at the university and in the library we can help you. If you have any questions or are worried please speak to the Library staff or come to Student Services and speak with the Disability team who can support and advise students on the best way to get support.
Here is just one example of a particular learning difference, highlighting some of the things that may need to be thought about:
Dyslexia, is one of the widest spread Learning Differences; in fact 1 in 10 people have dyslexia. Dyslexia commonly effects the ability to read and spell, learn phonics and recognise sounds of words, affects short term memory, and has a huge impact on a student’s self-esteem, especially in regards to academia.
Below are a few ways in which Libraries can pose a barrier to students with this learning difference:
Slow Reading Speed and Comprehension Problems
Dyslexic students may not have the skills necessary for efficient information handling. This can cause huge amounts of stress and anxiety or cause a student to actively avoid the library where possible. When you think of the amount of information that you process in the Library from finding information and navigating the stacks to using the maps to find the correct section this can feel totally overwhelming for students with learning differences it’s not surprising many chose to avoid the library.
Spelling and Sequencing difficulties
Alphabetically arranged information such as text classification can cause difficulties for Dyslexic learners. This links with the difficulties with phonics and being able to sequence letters easily.
Dyslexic learners can have difficulties with coding and number sequencing, both organising them in the correct sequence and remembering them! This means that searching for a particular book or journal can take much longer than expected.
Searching for key words can be affected by spelling difficulties this make skimming text difficult and time consuming. In some cases students could be put off borrowing books with shorter return dates so that they do not incur later return charges if they haven’t finished reading what they need to.
Asking for support
Low self-esteem can cause dyslexic learners to be hesitant or reluctant to ask for help. Difficulties in articulating their thoughts may mean students muddle their words and find it difficult to get to the point. Some students may get frustrated when using a library due to their dyslexia and give up. Poor auditory memory may cause students difficulty remember long-winded instructions. The Library staff are the best resource in a library (again, sorry Google) all students should make use of them and ask questions if they are not sure.
A combination of different factors including all the above cause stress and anxiety meaning students with dyslexia and Learning Needs may actively avoid the Library.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means as any student with a Learning Difference, not just Dyslexia will encounter a range of barriers to learning throughout their time at University.